We returned to the registry office in Wroclaw armed with our Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (let me remind you that this meaningless piece of paper cost us 700PLN, £140, €170, US$225), a certified copy of my birth certificate (the original is actually a copy too, so the certified copy is a copy of a copy), a date for the ceremony, a translator and a decision on our married names: I would keep my name and she would combine her name with my name. In Poland, this is something you have to decide before you can set a wedding date. We did not take all of our electronics to the registrar’s office as we had to the British Embassy. In fact, by this point I was becoming disillusioned with the gadgets I owned – they were not fast enough. I needed an iPad, I decided, but anticipating the cost of what was to come, it was unlikely I would be getting one any time soon.
“When would you like to get married?” the registrar said.
“June the thirtieth,” we said.
“No, that date is already booked up.”
“July the sixth?”
“July the thirteenth?” We were due to fly on our honeymoon on July the fifteenth.
“Maybe. Let me check.”
She checked. We waited.
“Yes, that is okay. Now, what will your names be?”
We told her.
“And the names of your children?”
“What?” I said, thinking perhaps the translator had made a mistake.
“What names will your children take?”
“But we don’t have any children.”
“No, your future children. What names will your future children take?”
I looked at my girlfriend. She looked as confused as I felt.
“What do you think?” I said.
“I don’t know, what do you think?”
“Should we talk about it and come back later?”
“If we do that then we’ll lose our slot and we won’t be able to get married before the honeymoon.”
“Good point,” I said. “Both?”
“Okay, both,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, “the children which do not yet exist will have both of our names.”
The registrar nodded wisely. We had made a good decision. We were going to be a good married couple. Our children were going to have good and happy lives, even if they themselves were imaginary. She recorded the information and the date of our wedding and walked to another desk and returned with a credit card payment terminal.
“That will be xxx zloty (£xxx, €xxx, US$xxx), please.”
I have forgotten how much this part of the procedure cost. I stopped counting after I paid what I considered to be a ridiculous amount of money for the Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage, a piece of paper which does nothing except tell its reader that I told its writer that I am not married.
Here is the unavoidable fact about weddings: everything connected with a wedding costs money. If the word wedding is involved, either in print or in thought, expect to pay above the odds for whatever it is you want. Just like a parent will pay anything for a child’s medicine, people know that those who want to get married will pay whatever it takes to make it happen, and the more you have already paid, the more emotionally invested you have become, and the more you will be prepared to pay.
After arranging a wedding date, things were relatively simple: we bought some expensive rings (my attempt to secure wedding iPads instead of wedding rings was unsuccessful); we paid for our expensive honeymoon; I bought an expensive suit; my wife arranged for an expensive stylist to come to our apartment in the morning; and we arranged a venue for our party.
My wife searched online for “wedding dresses” and found one on Amazon that she liked. Having realised that anything involving the word “wedding” automatically increases the price, she then searched for “prom dresses” and found the same dress from the same company for a fraction of the price.
The other one saving we managed to make was with a party venue. We chose a vegan café that I frequent most weekdays for lunch, and we asked if they would be willing to host our wedding party. Perhaps not realising that they could charge whatever they wanted and we would still have paid, or perhaps just because they were nice people, our party ended up being much cheaper than we anticipated.
The best thing about wedding parties is that everybody brings you presents. I love presents. Unfortunately, they are usually practical home presents, such as glasses, plates, home store gift vouchers, and not fun presents like computer games, books or electronics. I had hoped that since wedding iPads were out, I might find one among here, but I was again disappointed.
So what has changed from boyfriend to husband, from girlfriend to wife? Not much. I regularly forget to wear my wedding ring and I spend the day wracked with guilt, hoping my wife will not notice, and the alleged tax advantages have not emerged. Since my wife owns an apartment and I own nothing, I have technically married into property and climbed one rung on the social ladder, while my wife has gained the same last name as a famous poet, which puts her in good standing among her literary friends and colleagues. Our imaginary children are doing well – they are quiet and well-behaved – although since they and my wife all have the same last name and I have a different last name, I feel as if I am the odd one out, and I am considering changing my name to match the rest of my family’s.
One thing has changed: my wife and I have both noticed that between us, there is a stronger sense of unity. We are a team and the world has no choice but to see us as a team. If somebody has a problem with one of us, then they have a problem with both of us and what affects one affects the other. I consider my decisions more carefully, I spend my money more carefully (I still have no iPad) and I save more than before. I just wish I could remember where I left that ring.